In one of my leadership programs this past week, I met a very devoted leader who was overwhelmed with her workload. As she shared her story and challenges with us her face and entire body grew tense and rigid. She was visibly upset, shaking her head as she rolled out her struggles with us.
“I can’t seem to get a hold of all the work that keeps coming my way. Not only is the amount of work beyond doable, but also the people delegating it to me, don’t have a clue about what else I have been asked to complete. As a result I am continually missing deadlines and everyone seems to be angry with me. I just don’t know what to do!”
Has this ever happened to you where your inbox or desk looked like a tornado just blew through? Have you maybe lost control of the huge piles stacking up? Well you’re not alone and what leaders need to do is take hold of the situation before the situation takes hold of them.
Here are six leadership hacks to manage your workload:
1. BE HONEST-IT’S A DISASTER
As with any change, a leader’s first step in disrupting a current situation is labeling what is actually going on. Admit to yourself that your workflow is out of control and not the way it has always been. Something has toppled your cart and you are feeling frustrated for good reason. Your daily workload does not need to look like this. Say it and then move on to understand it.
2. DELVE IN TO ANALYZE
Step two is taking a hard look at what is taking hold of your inbox. Ask yourself:
- What type of work is appearing daily?
- Who is asking me to complete the projects?
- Am I the only one who has the skills to do the work?
- Can I delegate some of the tasks? To whom?
3. DECIDE ON A TACTIC
Once you have reviewed what is actually happening, you need to lead with a plan of action. Carefully decide which projects are not a priority or who to ask to guide you on prioritizing. They may all seem critical but it is highly unlikely you can complete them all at the same time. Then reorder the projects that you need to hold on to and stick with your schedule. Don’t forget to delegate when you can.
4. COMMUNICATE YOUR PLAN
This step is probably the most essential to survive a work overload. At each stage or decision point, we must inform those ultimately responsible for the projects of their status. Even if that means making someone upset. There is nothing worse than allowing deadlines to be missed and then being accused of not fulfilling our part of the process. It is far better to keep everyone informed so there are no surprises.
5. REVISE AS YOU GO
Who said we can’t make updates or edits or changes? Nothing is permanent until a final document is shared. And even then a change is possible. So if the timeline doesn’t seem to make sense then adjust it. Communicate the need for a change of the deadline. Be honest and be clear. Explain your reasons.
6. BUILD IN BREATHING TIME
Finally, leaders must take the time to step back and breathe. When you feel you need a break:
- Step back from your desk
- Take a walk
- Get a coffee or lunch
- Close your eyes
What other hacks have worked for you to control your day?